• Engage Leaders: GSDC board member Willie Jett has always been a team player
  • Grow Business: GSDC investor behind new electric car company in St. Joseph
  • Expand Talent: Talent Resource Opportunity – Employment of our Disabled Workforce
  • Shape Tomorrow: St. Cloud Shines – Shine On!
  • Insights & Inspirations: What will be the fastest growing jobs in the next decade?

Engage Leaders

GSDC board member Willie Jett has always been a team player

Every organization wants a leader who’s smart and adept at helping everyone around them do better. Willie Jett has certainly fit that description during his nine years as Superintendent of the St. Cloud Area School District, and his three years on the GSDC board.

He also fit that description decades earlier. As a guard on the University of Illinois – Chicago’s Division 1 men’s basketball team, Willie skillfully passed the ball around so that his teammates could easily score. In fact, he did it so well that more than 30 years after graduating, Willie still ranks in the top 10 on Illinois – Chicago’s all-time lists for assists in a game, season and career.

Perhaps to foreshadow a life dedicated to education, Willie’s college career also included being named three times to the Conference All-Academic Team.

Shortly thereafter, he spent nine years teaching and coaching in Minneapolis, Osseo and Anoka-Hennepin, followed by positions of assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent in other Twin Cities school districts.

We’re fortunate to now have his leadership in St. Cloud, including with the GSDC. But when it comes to taking credit for his contributions to our organization, Willie chooses to, well, pass.

“It’s the relationships at the GSDC, being at the table with individuals who want better for our community and are willing to provide access and opportunity to the District 742 community,” he says. “The GSDC provides a direct line to the business community for our students, including resources, internships and mentorships.”

That’s exactly what you’d expect a team player to say. Thanks for being on ours, Willie.

Willie Jett

District 742 Superitendent


Grow Business

GSDC investor behind new electric car company in St. Joseph

Move over, Detroit. Tomorrow’s automobile manufacturing capitol could someday be Central Minnesota, thanks to the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of Opus Motorcar Company. Established in November 2020 in St. Joseph, the company has begun producing small, electric cars – called Opus No. 3 – that travel short distances (25 miles per charge) at low speeds (35 mph, tops).

Nine Opus No. 3s comprise the car’s initial test fleet, which will be available beginning next month for $7,500 each.

“Driving just isn’t fun anymore, and we think this is the perfect cure for that,” says Opus co-founder and CEO Tom Skahen, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics from the University of Minnesota. “We want to offer a sensible alternative to the over-commodified, overpriced, overbuilt mainstream cars out there.”

The company’s other co-founder (and CFO), Sean Skahen, is Tom’s dad and the owner of Sunset Manufacturing, a GSDC investor in St. Joseph. These gentlemen are providing another outstanding example of how creative thinking can be turned into great outcomes in Central Minnesota.

Learn more about this exciting development in an excellent front page story from the October 15 St. Cloud Times. Or take the Opus website for a spin: www.OpusMotorcar.com.


Expand Talent

National Disability Employment Awareness Month Highlights Importance of Inclusive Hiring

Employing people with disabilities can benefit business

What if you found out that your company is significantly underutilizing a critical talent pool?

At a time when there are more job openings in the U.S. than workers, you’d want to know more, wouldn’t you?

And, what if, by recognizing the value of that talent pool and leveraging it, your company could also realize significant gains in profitability, value creation and shareholder returns — as well as other business benefits?

Companies that embrace best practices for employing and supporting more persons with disabilities in their workforce have outperformed their peers.

Persons with disabilities present business and industry with unique opportunities in labor-force diversity and corporate culture, and they’re a large consumer market eager to know which businesses authentically support. See GSDC Resources here.           


Governor Proclaims October Disability Employment Awareness Month in Minnesota 

PAUL– Minnesotans with disabilities play a critical role in our economy and provide immense value to our work environments. October marks the 76th annual observation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which is themed as America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion. Minnesota’s economy and its competitiveness require the contributions of all people, including those with disabilities. Our recovery will be powered by inclusion

In honor of this national celebration, Governor Tim Walz has proclaimed October as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Minnesota, recognizing that individuals with disabilities are valuable and productive contributors to our economy and taxpayers in the workforce.

“All too often, employers overlook job-seekers who come with disabilities – not recognizing that they bring with them unique abilities that strengthen our businesses,” said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. “Our job at DEED is to help businesses tap into the extraordinary problem-solving, loyalty, and talents that more than half a million Minnesotans with disabilities bring to the workforce – and this month gives us an opportunity to highlight that.”

There are 15.1 million people of working age living with disabilities in the U.S., so the research suggests that if companies embrace disability inclusion, they will gain access to a new talent pool of more than 10.7 million people.

That represents a significant opportunity to strengthen our businesses and our economy. According to other research, employees with disabilities offer tangible benefits, including increased innovation, improved productivity, and a better work environment. And of course, workers are consumers too. The GDP could get a boost up to $25 billion if just 1 percent more of persons with disabilities joined the US labor force.

The good news, is that US organizations are successfully employing people with disabilities, creating initiatives and developing their inclusion program. There is great opportunity that remains.

To learn more about hiring those with disabilities check out our GSDC resources.


Shape Tomorrow

St. Cloud Shines – Shine On!

Have you heard? St. Cloud Shines now has a monthly newsletter filled with fun featuring the great people, places, faces, friends, businesses, and things to do in the Central MN community. This bright (and brief) newsletter will keep you up to date on our latest stories, investor features, upcoming events, and ways you can get involved and share your story. Sign up and Shine On!

Take a look at our new community drive through video!


Insights & Inspirations

What will be the fastest growing jobs in the next decade?

Are you as curious as we are regarding the labor market and how it will continue to evolve? This article from Visual Capitalist shows their predictions for the fastest growing jobs over the next decade. Read the article HERE.







Contact Our Staff Team

Patti Gartland, President
pgartland@greaterstcloud.com | 320-260-2442

Leslie Dingmann, Business Development Director
ldingmann@greaterstcloud.com | 320-493-9003

Gail Cruikshank, Talent Director 
gcruikshank@greaterstcloud.com | 320-260-6775

Amelia Barkley, Communications & Program Specialist 
abarkley@greaterstcloud.com | 320-292-9296